Tuberculosis (TB) occurs worldwide and affects a wide range of wild and domestic animals as well as humans. One form of TB that is a particular problem in domestic animals is caused by the bacterium Mycobacterium bovis (M. bovis). In Britain, the presence of M. bovis infection in European badgers (Meles meles) impedes the eradication of TB in cattle. Effective disease management is currently hindered by inaccurate diagnostic tests (this is true in cattle and badgers). The aim of this project is to determine the accuracy of currently available tests for TB in badgers, which may be used on their own or in combination with other tests, and to identify better ways of using these tests to increase the accuracy of diagnosis at individual badger and social group level.
We are using a range of advanced statistical techniques and analytical methods on long-term data collected from wild badgers that have been tested for TB using three different diagnostic tests. We aim to improve their diagnostic value by:
- Interpreting in combination tests that are based on identifying different markers of infection (different arms of the immune system)
- Accounting for biological changes that occur in response to infection and their time dependency
- Using all information available at population and individual badger level to model epidemiological processes over time
- Employing mathematical methods to examine the potential impact of a range of interventions that might be employed to try to reduce levels of TB
We are collaborating on this project with colleagues at the Animal Health and Veterinary Laboratories Agency (AHVLA) National Wildlife Management Centre and at AHVLA York. This project is funded by Department for the Environment, Food & Rural Affairs (Defra).